Meatloaf is often-maligned: It has a reputation as a bland way to stretch a pound of ground meat to feed an entire family. But the meatloaf of our childhoods need not be the meatloaf of today.

I proved this case in point last week, and in the process managed to use some surplus matzah meal that was lingering in my cabinet from Passover. I used ground beef, but turkey or chicken, or even venison if you are so inclined, work equally well here.

We like spicy in our house, so this version definitely has a kick. If your crew has more timid palates, simply back off or eliminate the fiery additions. I made this with oven-roasted root veggies, which worked beautifully because they cooked alongside the meatloaf, so timing the meal was a breeze. A simple salad and, voila, dinner was served.

We skipped dessert with this meal, but if you are craving a post-dinner sweet, opt for something simple and homey like brownies, cookies or apple pie.

Spicy Meatloaf

Serves 4

If you have leftovers, slice the meatloaf thinly and serve it on white bread with some mayo and iceberg lettuce for a retro lunch.

1 pound ground meat

1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil

1 jalapeno

2 cloves garlic

1 onion, chopped finely 

1 rib celery, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

½ cup bread crumbs or matzah meal

1 egg

⅔ cup ketchup 

2 tablespoons Sriracha or your favorite hot sauce (or to taste)

Heat your oven to 375 degrees. In a blender or mini chopper, puree the oil with the garlic and jalapeno.

Place it in a skillet over medium heat, and add the onion, celery, salt and pepper. Sauté until the onions and celery are soft. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, place the meat, egg and bread crumbs/matzah meal. Mix on low, and add the contents of skillet.

When blended, pour the mixture into a baking dish, and form it into a loaf.

In a small bowl, mix the ketchup and Sriracha. Spread a little less than half of this mixture over the meatloaf. Save the rest to serve at the table as a condiment.

Bake for an hour until done.

Oven-Roasted Vegetables

Serves 4

This root vegetable assortment is a bit of a workhorse for me. It checks the boxes of starch and veggie, and kills my carb craving without succumbing to the demon variety like pasta and bread. The extras are wonderful served cold in a salad tomorrow.

2 white potatoes, peeled if desired, cut in bite-sized chunks

2 sweet potatoes, peeled, cut in bite-sized chunks

8 carrots, cut in chunks

2 tablespoons oil

Generous sprinkle of salt and pepper

Heat your oven to 375 degrees. Place all the vegetables in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. 

Drizzle the vegetables with oil and toss with your hands to coat evenly. Sprinkle the vegetables with salt and pepper. 

Roast the vegetables in the oven for 45-60 minutes until the vegetables are beginning to brown and are cooked through.

Simplest Green Salad

Serves 4

This really is the simplest salad. My husband was taught years ago by a Greek friend of the family that salad should be made with only olive oil, salt and pepper — not vinegar.

I don’t always agree with this position, but the kick in the meatloaf was sufficient that I wanted a very basic salad without any piquancy. This fit the bill nicely.

1 package baby greens, such as arugula or spring mix

Generous sprinkle of salt and pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

Toss all the ingredients together and serve immediately. JN

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